Holidays to Sicily are all about sun, sea, good food and wine – or are they? In fact, Sicily has an amazing history stretching back thousands of years and some remarkable archaeological sites just waiting for you to explore them. |
One of the most impressive ones is, without a doubt, Segesta. Located in the north-west of the island, Segesta was once a commercial centre for the ancient world. With a strategic location on the commanding slopes of Mount Barbaro and close enough to the coast to serve as a major trading port, the city flourished from 7th century BCE. However, by the 2nd century BCE, the city had declined and attention passed over to nearby Aquae Segestanae.
But, as befitting a major city of those times, during its heyday it sported some magnificent public buildings including a breath-taking Doric temple and a magnificent 2nd century BCE theatre, both of which are in a remarkable state of preservation.
A Secluded and Fascinating Archaeological Park
Today, the ancient site of Segesta is part of an archaeological park, surrounded by lush countryside and far from the bustling crowds. To make the most of your visit, we suggest staying in one of the lovely hotels in the area and using it as your base camp for some fascinating exploring during your holidays in Sicily.
The Doric temple was, according to archaeologists, never actually completed. With 14 columns on either side and six on the front and back, the wall-less temple is just over 60 meters long and 26 meters wide. Walking through this gigantic structure you can’t help but marvel at the skill of the builders who, thousands of years ago, erected such a magnificent structure. We recommend, after exploring the site, to take a step back and view the lush hillside behind the temple through its columns – it’s an amazing sight.
The open-air theatre is remarkably well preserved. With a diameter of just over 62 metres it’s not a huge example of an ancient theatre, but sitting high up with the “gods” on a centuries old stone bench watching one of the classical Greek plays performed (in Italian) during the summer can give you a glimpse of the glory that was Segesta in ancient times.
Despite its decline by the 2nd century BCE, the area continued to be inhabited well into the Middle Ages and the park also contains the ruins of an old Norman castle, a church and a mosque.
Enjoy Rural Calatafimi After Your Visit
No holidays in Sicily would be complete without at least one visit to a traditional, rural community. Calatafimi, just a few kilometres from Segesta, is the perfect place to enjoy a great cup of coffee in one of this small town’s bars after your visit to the park. With just 8,000 inhabitants, this is a charming rural township serving the people who work mainly in agriculture. Despite having some parts rebuilt after an earthquake in 1968, the town still retains its Sicilian character and atmosphere and a stroll through the narrow streets and alleyways of the old town is the perfect end to a great day out.
Castellammare del Golfo: the Perfect Place to Stay
We also love the town of Castellammare del Golfo, with its great marina and dozens of bars and restaurants. The town centre is higher up and the walk is an experience in its own right. From the top of the town, expect to see some magnificent views over the Mediterranean. There are also some really lovely hotels in this area with great hospitality.
John Dixon is Managing Director of Prestige Holidays and visits Italy at least twice a year. He has been providing luxury holidays to Sicily as well as luxury holidays to many other destinations worldwide for over 30 years.
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